Michael DiSalvo (M.D. as many call him), though a psychologist by training, now considers himself a "doctor" of a different sort. "'Doctor,' many forget, means 'teacher' in Latin," he says, with a wink of an eye. "What we really need to get these kids in shape for the New S.A.T. is a few more 'doctors.'" Michael, a resident of Broward County, believes that he has some right to speak due to recent success prepping his own students. What's the secret?
The easy answer: critical thinking. The more thought-provoking one: Latin. Though he had raised his own math scores a whopping 150 pts from college to graduate school by taking a few key classes, Michael found that the key to unlocking the verbal part of the S.A.T. was his four years of Latin. Why Latin?
"Eighty percent of the English language relates to the original Latin. If there is anything critical thinking skills allow one to do it's to get down to the roots of things. It is there one can find the keys to open up an entire new world of knowledge. But, though understanding difficult vocabulary is important, it isn't the main thing," he says. "Latin forces you to think 'outside the box.' Once you train yourself to think out of sequence, to look for patterns, you know you have that skill that is at the heart of the entire S.A.T." Tangible results?
"I remember the first time I really started teaching these strategies. Within two weeks I saw a dedicated student jump from a 1010 to a 1310, Verbal + Quantitative. Compared to the 30 points increase many are usually excited about, I knew I was onto something." His proof that ancient languages are the key?
"Just look at the great philosophers. Plato, for example, who spoke Greek, had it written over the world's first college, the Academy: 'He who does not know Geometry may not enter this place.' The fact that these famous critical thinkers had a mastery of these ancient languages and subjects like Algebra and Geometry should tell us something. The careful, ordered way of thinking that was part of their life was in the very world around them, in the very languages they spoke." His advice to those preparing for the new S.A.T.?
"Get the basics down and learn how to think. If you can take Latin, great! Give it a shot. Though you may go crazy with declining and conjugating everything in sight, you will begin to see how it all relates to the ability to think clearly. I tell my kids: learn the basics, learn the pattern, solve for the pattern. It will all come in due time with persistence and hard work if you study the principles, whether they be Math, Reading or Writing ones." So, will this "doctor" ever stop making house calls?
"I've been able to get the big numbers when I show students these skills one-on-one. I want to try to get the same results teaching classes this summer. That's what Plato did. That is the ultimate challenge."